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We’ve already discussed some old wives’ tales that have not yet been proven to help get you into labor, but fear not—there are some things that actually do work! If you are interested in trying either of these methods, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or midwife.

Membrane stripping

Also known as membrane sweeping, this is when your doctor or midwife uses a finger to separate the bag of waters from the lower part of your cervix. This can only be done if your cervix is dilated a little, and common side effects include cramping and spotting. It is assumed that this releases prostaglandins, which cause uterine contractions. There is actual data that membrane stripping increases the chances you’ll go into labor within 48 hours, so this one is actually worth a try! And if it doesn’t work, try not to worry—it can be repeated at your next visit if need be.

Membrane stripping should not be done as soon as you hit the early term mark, unless there is another medical reason that exists where you need to be delivered sooner than normal. Many providers won’t do it until you are 39 weeks pregnant or closer to your due date, since we know a lot of important fetal development happens up until then.

For women who are carriers of the bacteria Group B streptococcus (you are usually tested for this around 35-36 weeks gestation), some providers may not offer membrane stripping for the theoretical risk that it could increase the chance that your baby is exposed. However, there is no data to back this concern up and no official guidelines exist regarding this. 

Nipple stimulation

The idea behind this is that nipple stimulation (either by using your hands or a pump) causes the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone behind uterine contractions. This has been shown to work but only in women whose cervices were already dilated. Check with your provider before you do this, as it should be reserved for low-risk pregnancies since one of the side effects is too many contractions.

Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, December 2018

Takeaways

  • While many old wives’ tales exist when it comes to inducing labor naturally; membrane stripping and nipple stimulation have actually been shown to help.
  • If you are interested in trying either of these methods, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or midwife first.
  • Keep in mind that waiting for labor to start on its own is just fine, too!

References

  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. PB#107: Induction of Labor.

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